Following a brief pause in processing while local hospitals were at capacity due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Blue Grass plant officials coordinated with additional area hospitals and enhanced coordination with the Blue Grass Chemical Activity and the Madison County Emergency Management Agency/Kentucky Chemical Stockpile Emergency Preparedness Program, or CSEPP, to ensure coverage in the event of an unlikely chemical-agent contamination or industrial accident.
“The hospitals are already part of the CSEPP network, so they are familiar with our program,” said Karl Slaughenhaupt, principal deputy, Blue Grass Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant. “We have always relied on the Richmond, Berea and Winchester hospitals, but have enhanced our coordination with the next closest nine hospitals to assure our workers are provided responsive care should they require it and to keep the plant in an operational status.”
The plant staffs a comprehensive medical department that can provide decontamination and advanced life-saving care, but in the unlikely event of a chemical-agent or industrial accident, decontaminated and stabilized patients would need to be transported to an area hospital for follow-on care.
Having hospital capacity to accept plant personnel in the unlikely case of an accident is a condition of plant operations, Slaughenhaupt said. If that capacity is not available, the plant must pause until it becomes available again, as the safety of plant workers is the highest priority. After the recent pause in operations, plant officials now communicate regularly with the area hospitals for availability reporting.
“Even during the latter part of the pandemic, with COVID-19 patients filling hospitals, capacity remained accessible in our expanded hospital network,” Slaughenhaupt said. “Pauses of processing for maintenance and other activities are part of plant operations, but having the additional hospital access will help ensure we don’t have to stop for this reason again.”
The Blue Grass plant went into pause status Sept. 20 after notification from the Madison County Emergency Management Agency that the two Madison County hospitals were at capacity and could not receive new patients. Plant management used the operational pause to conduct maintenance activities and lifted the pause Sept. 24. The plant continues safely processing VX M55 rockets.